Tuesday, May 4, 2010

“Potential” for Pope to face prosecution in Scotland over child abuse cover up claims

NEWS03 May 2010
Exclusive: “Potential” for Pope to face prosecution in Scotland over child abuse cover up claims
The Crown Office have confirmed to the Firm that there is “potential” for Pope Benedict XVI to be prosecuted in Scotland over his alleged role in covering up ritualised paedophilia by priests under his control.

The Crown Office refused to rule out the possibility that the Pope could face prosecution in Scotland, and said it would not comment on the “potential” prosecution of any individual.

The Pontiff could face criminal proceedings if an international arrest warrant is granted, or victims of the abuse are found to reside in Scotland.

Scottish experts say that under Scots law, and the vigorous Crown agenda to prosecute sex offenders and those who conspire to commit and cover up sex offences, Pope Benedict could face arrest and prosecution in Scotland during his scheduled visits to Glasgow and Edinburgh in September.

Solicitor advocate John Scott said a police investigation into either an attempt to pervert the course of justice or a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice could be justified.

“The key to a successful prosecution would be to demonstrate knowledge on the part of the Pope that a crime had been committed and that he had assisted in an attempt to cover it up. The relevant correspondence would have to be considered to see if there was any suggestion of interfering with a criminal investigation, discouraging the victims from going to the police or encouraging the offending priests in their activities in some way,” he said.

“From some reports it seems to me that there would certainly be a basis for a police investigation into either an attempt to pervert the course of justice or even a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.”

He added that it was “inconceivable” that the Crown Office could ignore the claims and admissions arising in Pope Benedict’s case.

“In Scotland we now have a National Sexual Crimes Unit at Crown Office which specialises in the investigation and prosecution of serious sexual crimes across Scotland. It is inconceivable that they could choose to ignore the scandal and apparent cover-up,” he said.

“The recent Scottish case of the paedophile network, convicted and imprisoned for lengthy periods, showed an increased determination on the part of the Crown to widen its nets when it comes to such crimes. The charge of conspiracy to participate in the commission of sexual offences against children was used successfully and may point to an unwillingness to leave any stone unturned. There is a clear intent on the part of the Crown to leave no hiding places for serious sexual offenders.”

A campaign has already been mounted in England by atheist campaigners Professor Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, who obtained Counsel’s opinion on the prospect of prosecuting Benedict XVI during his forthcoming UK visit.

Last year, Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini said that the decision to utilise the conspiracy charge - the act alleged against Pope Benedict in relation to abuse claims in the US and Germany- in the Operation Algebra cases provided “clear evidence” and allowed the Crown to demonstrate to the jury “not only the full scale and truly sinister nature of the offences already committed, but also the shocking extent of the crimes that the accused had agreed to commit.

“These convictions for conspiring to abuse children make it clear that taking part in this kind of conduct is in itself an offence, and can be struck at by the law,” she said.

At the launch of the Crown’s new dedicated Sexual Offences Unit, Derek Ogg QC underlined their determination to pursue the most difficult cases.

“We will not shy away from cases simply because they are difficult or challenging. We will always seek to prosecute where the law enables us to do so,” he said.

“Above all, we want people who come forward to report sexual crime to be reassured that all of the facts will be thoroughly investigated and that there is commitment at the highest level in Scotland's prosecution service to delivering justice in these cases."

The full story and analysis can be read in the forthcoming issue of The Firm.

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